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European Campus Card Association conference highlights great progress

U.S. attendee sees similarities and differences between American and European card programs

By Danny Smith, Vice President, ColorID

More than 120 university attendees traveled from all across Europe to Lodz, Poland to attend the 2008 European Campus Card Association (ECCA) Conference. As the only attendee from North America at this year’s conference, I wanted to share an overview of my experience.

ColorID has been a sponsor and has attended the ECCA conference since the inaugural conference in Waterford, Ireland in 2002. Each year attendance of the ECCA conference has grown and this year’s event set an attendance record.

The Technical University of Lodz hosted the conference. The university is one of Poland’s largest universities and serves a student population of more than 20,000. Michał Strzelecki of Technical University of Lodz was the main organizer of this year’s event. In addition to being well organized the conference had the right blend of exhibits, presentations and social/networking opportunities.

It is really interesting to see the common challenges between the U.S. and the European card programs. In the end it’s the same, we’re still trying to maximize the available card system technologies to its fullest. Our European counterparts face similar systems limitations and obstacles.

In North America, the National Association of Campus Card Users (NACCU) has done a tremendous job promoting and encouraging card system development by bringing institutional and corporate members together. The ECCA has taken a similar approach in this direction and it is really evident with the European Education Connectivity Solution (EECS) project.

Eugene McKenna of Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland and Tor Fridell of Linkoping University, Sweden gave a presentation on the connectivity solution, which has been driven by ECCA, at the conference. The goal of this project is to provide standards, mobility and interoperability among European campuses. A comprehensive project proposal has been submitted for funding to the European Union (EU) and ECCA members are waiting to hear the outcome.

While there are many common characteristics between the European and North American card systems, there are also significant differences. For instance, it would be the exception to see a magnetic stripe on a student ID card in Europe. Most schools are using contact or contactless technologies and in some cases, both. Most of the contactless technology is MIFARE.

Also some countries, such as Croatia, Poland and Hungary, have a national university ID cards that are mandated by their government. Several in-depth presentations were given highlighting these programs. I was surprised to learn that many of these ID programs are highly developed and a good number utilize “home grown” solutions involving contact or contactless technologies.

Overall, the ECCA membership is very much like the NACCU membership. Everyone is willing to exchange information, ideas and suggestions. The camaraderie of the attendees has grown each year and many attendees stay in contact throughout the year.

Next year the ECCA conference will be held on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, hosted by the University of Zagreb. The specific details will be announced in the near future. The Europeans have embraced advanced technologies and are moving forward with solid applications and solutions. I’m sure you would find attending to be a worthwhile investment and will come away with new ideas and solutions.

Learn more information about ColorID & ECCA at www.ecca.eu / www.colorid.com.

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